Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chapter Next

I'm sitting on my couch, surrounded by boxes and bags of stuff brought home from my office of 15 years. Books, mostly, and papers. Like I really need more books in my house. Or papers. Some of this I'll no doubt discard. I'll just have to find homes for the rest.

I never blogged about my work, for a number of reasons. First. you can get fired for that. Second, I blog anonymously (up to a point), and it would have been too easy to identify me if I talked about my work in any great detail.

Third, and most importantly...I didn't want to.

I mean, I was at work for enough hours of my life. Why would I feel compelled to write about it too?

Now that it's over, this big chunk of my life, maybe I'll feel like writing about it some day. Not yet though.

I will say that when I walked out the door on Friday, I left happy. I left feeling proud of the work that I did, what I accomplished, the goodwill I accumulated (if praise were money, I really could retire). Heck, I even feel like I left a legacy of sorts. The work I did will continue; the department that so many labored to build over the decades of its existence survives, and I hope flourishes, in good hands.

So, that's my big brag. Funny, it's the first time I've ever felt so free to brag about something I've done, now that it's over, and I'm no longer doing it.

I can't say that this change hasn't sunk in. I was ready to go. It was surprisingly easy to walk out that door. No big emotions, no tears, no regrets.

Everybody asks me what I'm going to do next. I tell them I'm planning to relax. Exercise. Write. Maybe go to China for an extended period next year, so I can really work on my Chinese, finally. Sell my house? Maybe. i'd like to keep it if I can, but if I can't, I'll try to let go with as little angst as possible.

We'll see.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Murphy Is Not An Oppositionist
I wasn't going to post this because I don't like posting really personal stuff. But, well, she was a great cat.

I am watching a San Diego Chargers preseason game because I don't know what else to do. I'd hoped that my cat Murphy would be watching it with me. When she was younger, she was fascinated by football, particularly if one of the teams wore red. She'd get up on top of the TV, watch the plays upside-down, batting at the little red men as they'd run across the green field.

The vet just took Murphy away. She was 19 1/2. She'd had kidney problems for the past few years, hyperthyroid for years before that. In the last six months she had noticeably declined, and I was seriously concerned about leaving her for two weeks while I was in China. But I'd planned the trip a year ago, paid for it all, and with the upheaval in my work life (as in, unemployment after 15 years at the studio), I felt I needed to continue my China connection, both for my writing and for whatever other opportunities might present themselves.

So I reluctantly left her, in the care of a cat sitter who had taken care of her for a number of years and knew her medical routine.

When I came home from China on Saturday in the early afternoon, the minute I saw Murphy I knew that she was dying. She still tottered over to her food bowl, still looked up at me, knowing that eventually something good would come of it. But she couldn't really eat. She'd lost more weight. After spending a few hours with her I emailed the house-call vet to tentatively schedule a visit on Monday.

I slept the next two nights on the couch, where Murphy liked to sleep most nights. She slept with me, sat on my lap when I read or watched TV, and last night crawled up on my shoulder to sleep for hours. I agonized about the vet appointment. Was it time? Was I doing the right thing? I stayed home today but knew I had to go into work for the rest of the week - it's my last week there after all - if I weren't working, could I have more time with her? Why did this have to happen now, just before I'd have all the time I wanted?

This afternoon, she tottered over to the couch, climbed up and rested her head on my lap. That's where she stayed, until at last she lay on her side, nearly comatose. I no longer had any doubts it was time.

Murphy accompanied me on my life's path for nearly my entire time in Los Angeles. I named her Murphy when she appeared inside the Murphy bed in my old apartment, half-grown, half-starved, skittish and sweet as hell. She was with me for my rock and roll years - she loved it when I played the bass and sang - she loved music in general, would sit in front of the stereo between the speakers, right at the point of greatest stereo separation. I am not kidding. She was particularly fond of the John Adam's opera, "Nixon in China." Again, I'm not kidding.

She was with me for all my attempts at screenplays, at novels, sitting on my lap, competing with the laptop for space. She was here through the drafts and the revisions of the novel that finally got me an agent. My little gray Muse. She was with me for my various romantic disasters, my work dramas, and she was waiting for me when I returned from my adventures. I honestly think she waited to go until I’d returned from this last one.

I don't think of cats as people, or children, but they are companions to many of us, and Murphy was a great companion to me.

I can't quite process the irony that at the same time as my fifteen year stint at the studio is ending, at a time when I may be selling my house and leaving Los Angeles after more than 20 years here, when my life suddenly looks very different after years of continuity, that this one constant companion has left me as well.

I picked this photo of her because it shows how involved she liked to be with anything I happened to be doing. Here she is, helping me with my study of Chinese revolutionary history...

Goodbye, Murphy. You were a great cat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Greetings from Shanghai!

I'm sitting in my friend's lovely (air conditioned!) apartment in Shanghai after an overnight train from Beijing. I'm sleep-deprived, sweaty and ready to scrounge up some late breakfast. Would have loved to have posted from Beijing but my computer time was limited to non-existent. For now, I'll just say that the old Imperial capital never looked so good or in such fine spirits, not since my coming here, anyway. For all of the skeptism about the Games, the costs, the controversies and crack-downs, the improvements to Beijing's infrastructure and overall environment are significant and much-needed (Subway Lines 5 & 10 - have I mentioned how much I love you both?). By the time of our arrival on August 12 (er, was it the 12?), the pollution had faded and aside from a deluge during Beach volleyball, the weather was great - clear and warm.

I should have more to say about all this when I get back to LA (and lots of photos), but here's my wish for Beijing: may you keep half those cars off the road forever. What a difference it made...

UPDATE: On the negative side of the Olympic tally, a sad and too common story - two elderly Beijing women sentenced to a year's detention for protesting the 2001 demolition of their houses to make way for Olympic development.

There are good acts and evil acts, and sometimes it's very hard to determine where it all balances out...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

On the road again...

I just finished watching the looonnnggg rebroadcast of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Over the top doesn't quite describe it. Enough fireworks went off to pretty much nullify all those factory closures that were supposed to bring blue skies for the Games (did you know that fireworks produce significant and long-lasting air pollution? Well, they do).

I'm off to Shanghai tomorrow, and then on to Beijing. I'm not bringing a laptop (doing this trip carry-on thanks to the reportedly onerous security checkpoints, not to mention the checked baggage fees), something I will probably regret at some point because I still have some writing to do on my book. On the other hand, this trip promises to be packed with sporting events, parties, random socializing, and oh yeah, another round of drinking with the Manchurian hairdressers.

Stay tuned...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hollywood Bowl

Hollywood Bowl
Originally uploaded by Other Lisa

Thanks to my former boss, I had a lovely terrace box at the Hollywood Bowl tonight for the LA Philharmonic. The program was Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Grieg's Piano Concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol. The latter two pieces I know nearly by heart; they were favorites during my childhood. The second movement of the Beethoven symphony is a piece of music I just love.

So it was a really nice concert, even with the police helicopters and airplanes adding an off-kilter counterpoint to the Beethoven.

First, the orchestra played the Star Spangled Banner. After hearing the anthem butchered so many times by singers whose collective philosophy seems to be seeing how many melismas they can cram into a tune (NOTE: guys, just because you can sing those notes doesn't mean that you should), the orchestral performance was bracing, Stirring, even.

Except that, nowadays, hearing the Star Spangled Banner makes me cry. I think of what this country stands for, the "better angels" of our nature: the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, principles that mean something. I think of what we've become, a nation where the concept of the rule of law has been perverted to allow torture, indefinite detention, coerced confessions. I think of how a tradition of egalitarianism has been replaced by a new Guilded Age, in which a small group of oligarchs has rigged the system to funnel money out of our infrastructure, our poor, our middle-class and into their own hands.

Yeah, I know, bad shit has always gone on. This country was founded on the original sins of slavery and genocide as well as democracy and equality.

I just didn't think I'd be living through another round of it. I thought we were better than this.